In 1953, my junior year in high school, I wrote my first poem. The opening line was, “If one could have a feeling for these times when the struggles of power for power come together…” It wasn’t a very good poem but the thought remained one of the dominant themes of my life. Two years later I was to discover Existential philosophy and the writings of Albert Camus.
I would say that Camus and Buddha have had been perhaps the two most profound influences on my moral, political and philosophical life. I have found these two ostensibly unconnected systems have hooked up in the most wonderful, meaningful ways for me.
“The French moral philosopher Albert Camus argued that we are separated from each other. Our lives are meaningless. We cannot influence fate. We will all die and our individual being will be obliterated. And yet Camus wrote that “one of the only coherent philosophical positions is revolt. It is a constant confrontation between man and his obscurity. It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it.” Christopher Hedges
I believe that in this age where the irreversible corruption of power by the mediocre and venal threatens our survival, the only viable moral position is that of the rebel. Systems are beyond reform. Even voting only reinforces their power and expands the illusion of our now dead democracy.
The only action left is resistance. The rebel is beyond personal fulfillment, happiness, hope and despair. His realm is in the pure moral act for its own sake beyond outcomes. This strategy was well understood by two martyrs of the last century: Gandhi and King.
They both died very unhappy men in their last moments. Gandhi said two weeks before his assassination, “I do not wish to live if peace is not established in India and Pakistan.” King was clinically depressed before the bullet took him down. We remember them as examples of heroic martyrs who set the good of all above personal power, reward and personal peace.
For the moral person there is a fulfillment beyond personal happiness, and peace of mind. Most Americans prefer peace at any price. Plato asked us "Is there a qualitative difference between the happiness of a pig and the happiness of a Socrates?"
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|William A. Cook|